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Herpes Simplex

What is it?

Herpes Simplex is a viral infection, which can come in two types:

TYPE 1 Usually cause ‘cold sores’ around the mouth and nose, but can affect the genital/anal area.

TYPE 2 Usually causes ‘cold sores’ in the genital and anal area, but can affect the mouth.

How did I get it?

It is transmitted by sexual or close physical contact & especially when the sores are open, ‘wet’.

The most common way of getting genital Herpes is by having oral sex.

What are the symptoms?

For both men & women:

You may have some pain when passing urine.

You may notice small painful blisters/ulcers in your genital area.

Stinging, tingling or itchy in the genital/ oral area.

You may become unwell with flu like illness, especially with the first attack.

At this time the virus is highly infectious. Once infected you will always carry the virus and may have recurrence of the symptoms, which are usually milder.

What will it do to me?

A Herpes attack, especially the first one, can make you feel very sore ‘down below’ and generally unwell.

There are several things you can do to make you feel better:

  • If you have any pain, take some painkillers such as paracetamol/aspirin.

  • You can gently bathe your sores at least twice a day in salt solution (approx 1 teaspoon to 1 pint warm water). This helps the sores dry out.

  • Don’t wear tight clothing.

  • You could also place an ice pack to the affected area. This should be covered by a clean cloth so you don’t get a cold bottom.

  • Some people find passing urine is extremely painful, so pass urine whilst sitting a shallow bath of water.

  • Increase your fluid intake i.e drink plenty of water or soft drinks.

  • Avoid sunbathing and using sun-beds.

  • Make sure that you get plenty of rest.

Where can I go?

To your local Sexual Health Clinic - GUM Clinic, or a Doctor.

Nationwide, dedicated helpline service for people with herpes simplex - every weekday and occasionally at weekends.


You can get information and advice from the Herpes Viruses Association helpline on 020 76609 9061 (be ready to jot down the details of the next helpline volunteer).

Can it be treated?

Yes the symptoms can be treated with a course of antiviral tablets. If you have a recurrence of symptoms you may not need treatment as it will clear up quickly by itself. However, if you are getting frequent recurrence of symptoms, make an appointment to speak to someone at your nearest GUM/Sexual Health Clinic.

If you have this infection your partner should also have a check up even if they feel fine.

Always wearing a condom during sex will reduce the risk of becoming infected.

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